Dear Andrew,

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A note to a friend

Photo by TexasExplorer98 via Foter.com under CC BY

Yes, there’s no way I was going to leave Twitter without being able to contact you — I’m glad you wrote =)

That’s great you’re working on a book! I just checked out storylabs.co — great name! I like .co. I registered clownfysh.co thinking waaay ahead to someday five years from now when I stop using Medium for blogging and the next version of clownfysh.com comes around as the .co.

I am ok. Doing better psychologically than I have been. In a lot of pain physically, though. I’ve been controlling what I watch..like you, probably, my imagination is on overdrive in line with being a writer and one video about underworld conspiracy or the end of the world can send my mind spinning. But I do watch some of that stuff, in a controlled way, because it inspires my writing sometimes.

Right now I’m on a break from writing. Haven’t written in about a month? And planning on taking the rest of September off. Then for the last three months of the year, I am slowly making notes on a couple books I want to do next, and I might do one, or maybe two, of them—one in October, take a break in November, write in December. Something like that.

I feel satisfied sometimes. I feel really dissatisfied sometimes. This year I stopped contacting my sisters and finally my dad basically because when I’m in relationship with them I feel bad! And I don’t want to feel bad! I’ll leave out the details but once I started going to therapy (and I had already cut contact with them before that) I started realizing, through this therapist’s point of view, how truly shitty those three people were treating me. Smh!! Stuff I hadn’t even thought of he was like, well she’s manipulating you into confronting her husband about stuff that she should be talking to him about..and I’m like..god damn you’re right. And my therapist “gave me permission” not to feel bad about not talking to them, given the circumstances. I mean, things I think are crazy — and that, say, a therapist or other psychiatric support person thinks are crazy — my family does not think are crazy!

And I don’t want to cut off my little sisters—that’s harsh! — but I want to grow to the next level of me and I think I’m ready to do that, and it’s near impossible with so many people in my family sabotaging me. They want to — excuse the judgment, but — live at the lower level! I want to go to therapy, tell my secrets, stop lying to myself, and grow! Fuck!!! So I’m struggling with growing on the one hand and leaving behind people I love on the other hand. My mother thinks I can maintain relationships with them and grow at the same time. Maybe that’s possible, but I’m not sure it’s possible for me.

Regina Spektor has that song on What We Saw from the Cheap Seats: “Small Town Moon.” And the lyric I love is, “How can I leave without hurting everyone that made me?”

That’s me right now.

<3 Matthew

The girl in the purple jumpsuit

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My dream from last night

Photo by MSVG via Foter.com under CC BY

Psychoanalyze this shit.

There was a girl from my youth group — the girl in the purple jumpsuit. She let me know that if her boyfriend wasn’t around, it was cool.

In case you don’t know what I mean when I say, “It was cool,” let me expand. She meant I could flirt with her. I could put my arm around her. I could fuck her. As long as her boyfriend wasn’t around, it was cool.


So one day when her boyfriend wasn’t around, we went walking. And we ended up in this Koreatown strip mall with a place where you could fight your friends — supervised — for a fee. Like for entertainment. You would spar with your friends.

And she looked at me, in her purple jumpsuit, and she said, “You wanna do it?”

And I said, “Yeah.”

Now in this dream she was fit. And I was like I am in reality: tardive dyskinesia, shaky, back pain, rib pain, muscle pain — basically cripple from the waist up.

So we start to fight.

We’re in a room like a dance studio: wooden floors, nothing in the space but a wall of tinted windows to the parking lot and the other three walls covered floor to ceiling in mirrors.

And we’ve chosen pool cues as our weapons — we each have one.

And the fight goes on bout for bout.

And in each bout, I beat her down.

And in each bout, she takes an injury but gets back up.

The pool cues get broken. I fight through my pain.

And I beat her down again, and again, and again, until the supervisor calls the fight — and an ambulance.


So I’m kneeling by this girl’s stretcher in the hallway. The ambulance is about to take her away and she’s in something like a body bag. Her face is beat to shit — cracked, bleeding.

And she grabs the uncovered part of herself, pinching her labia through the purple jumpsuit, and she says, “Did you forget you could have this?”

And I’m staggered: she’s right, if I hadn’t beat her the point of needing a trip to the ICU, we could have been fucking like Adam and Eve.

But I look inside myself and I answer her question honestly.

And what I say is this:

“It seemed like you thought you were stronger than me.

But I knew that you weren’t.

And I needed you to know that.”

And we were both like: oh, that’s deep. And in that moment we got to know each other as more than just potential fuck buddies.

And I continued:

“Also, I’m crazy. I’m obsessive. I don’t like to be pushed. And I needed you to know that. If we were going to be together.”

And we were both like: whoah, we’re really getting to know each other here. And she was hurting now — worse than me — but she was happy for the honesty in my actions.

Then I told her, as long as we lived, even if she killed me, I would never fight back, I would never hurt her again.

And they took us away in the ambulance.

A day that I would be proud to be my last

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Live that day today

Rebecca singing in my warehouse space in 2000

A few of us in our families were talking about wills recently, realizing we don’t have them, and (as usual) I act on discussions like this. I don’t just talk about making a will and let six months pass, then maybe do it.

So I was making my will last night. Of course it invited thoughts of my death and the world going on without me, as the world will someday do. But I wasn’t thinking about it in an extremely personal way, I was just answering the questions on the forms and considering it a creative task: who do I want to give my few things and little bit of money to?

Then I remembered my friend Rebecca who died a long time ago and I remembered that her family set up some sort of scholarship fund and I thought I could give something to that. So I searched for the fund and I didn’t find it but I did find a memorial article about Rebecca with a picture of her smiling and holding her sister’s hand.

I probably should have been more careful before searching for anything Rebecca related, because seeing that picture of her beautiful face while I was filling out my own will pushed me over the edge a little bit in terms of mortality thinking.

I know life is a cycle and we’re constantly living and dying. I’m 38; I’ve thought about mortality before and pretty much come to the conclusions that:

  • It doesn’t make sense to think about it because there’s nothing I can do about it.
  • I should live my life in a way that I give the greatest value I can to others, such that when I die, there will be something to miss.

And I guess that’s it. I don’t have to agonize about mortality like I did when I was younger. The deaths of people I love are more important to me than my own—I don’t believe mine will be of much significance to me (I could be wrong!). I certainly don’t believe in an afterlife—although that would be cool!

I will always mourn my people who have died, Rebecca especially, because she was so young and died so tragically. And because Rebecca and I never got to say goodbye. We never broke up. So she—and we—are frozen in time for me in a fiery moment and it will always be left that way, undone, unclosed, unfinished. I love her; we had a unique connection. I’m not living in the past but she’s a part of my past that is so great it is truly unforgettable.

But with time the human-to-human part of my thoughts about her fade, and the fact that she encouraged me (lit a fire under my ass) creatively, comes sharper and sharper into focus. She read one of my early plays and (an actor herself) loved the complex, dark female lead. Wanted to play the part. We were both people of light but we liked our art dark, and she loved my dark art more than anyone did. I wish she could read what I have written since, because she’s one of the few people who would probably like all of it, even the stuff where I cross the line and then keep on running. I miss her.

But I am here now, as that young woman was fond of reminding me, and my job is to live each day to the fullest. To live in this moment. I try to..

  1. treat myself well,
  2. treat others well, and
  3. write

..every day—that is the best I can do. And when I do that, I live a day that I would be proud to be my last.

Three songs that saved my spirit

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from the vacancy of the corporate world

Photo by bjimmy934 via Foter.com under CC BY

I was just listening to Tori Amos’ Boys for Pele and marking my favorite songs with a heart. And it reminded me of something I used to do when I worked job jobs, computer software jobs. On the way from and especially to work, I would listen to music and decide which was my favorite Tori Amos album, then which was my favorite song on each album, then what was my favorite Tori Amos song overall. I wasn’t so much categorizing the music as I was defining myself, learning what meant the most to me, what resonated most with me, and therefore what was most me.

Those software jobs were hard for me. My coworkers were dim, my managers inept. My skills were far from fully utilized. I went to counseling once a week, breakfast with my pastor mom once a week, and took my music/driving time seriously. Some songs literally saved my life, because they gave me hope that someday my life path wouldn’t be so dismal—that there were people out there who were intelligent and felt deeply, and made art, which I eventually figured out was what I was like, and what I did. I’ve always been an artist, since I was born—it just took me a couple of decades to figure that out..and then a couple more decades to get comfortable with it.

Once, after an emergency lunch with my mom, as she dropped me back off at the pathetic software company I worked for, I saw an albino squirrel and it made me cry. That was me, see: all the other squirrels were gray. I was white. I had red eyes and I scared the shit out of everyone around me because I was smarter and more outspoken than them. And happier. And sadder. And more prolific. And more erratic. I was definitely the albino squirrel.

At 27, the state declared me bipolar. At 37, private doctors said I had bipolar-type schizoaffective disorder, tardive dyskinesia, and OCD—and that I couldn’t work any job. But from 19 to 31 I was building software for American companies large and small, doing my job extremely well while every moment trying not to implode.

Three songs in particular saved my life:

  • You’re So Cool” by Hans Zimmer from True Romance. This song saved me from my first job. Without its hope, without it running through my veins as a theme song, I would not have survived that job as well as I did. I listened to it hundreds of times. It was like that song was replacing the air in my tires. When I was in the khaki-laden brown-walled offices of that dismal job, the colors of “You’re So Cool” were bouncing around my mind, reminding me that not all of the world was like the flimsy offices of that company and the neurotic morons who worked there. I had a very different tune playing in my head, and it was composed by Hans Zimmer.
  • Marianne” by Tori Amos on Boys for Pele. This is the reason I thought to make this post. Even though Boys for Pele isn’t my favorite Tori album, this one song meant the most to me out of all her songs, as I drove to my second job. A song about suicide, or a suggestion of suicide..at the very least a song about someone who is failing miserably in the emotional zone. That’s how I interpret it anyway. It has the kind of lyrics that are so poetic they’re unpierceable. But to me it was about emotional frailty and grief and suicide. And maybe I was suicidal in a way that I didn’t know it, and that’s why this song meant so much to me.
  • Mona Lisas & Mad Hatters” lyrics by Bernie Taupin with music by Elton John on Honky Chateau. Really one of the saddest songs I’ve ever heard, and sums up my work experience in corporate jobs better than any other expression in any media. This song makes me sad. When I listen to it, I am instantly sad. So, when driving to a job that makes me sad, why listen to it? Because its sadness matches sadness and that is appropriate. Because it meant that someone else understood how sad corporate everything is, how lame and unproductive, what a life-suck on people who could be beautiful..what a life suck on me, a person who was trying to live a beautiful life. The lyrics say it all:

While Mona Lisas and Mad Hatters
Sons of bankers, sons of lawyers
Turn around and say good morning to the night
For unless they see the sky
But they can’t and that is why
They know not if it’s dark outside or light

To me that is such a succinct description of the misery that is office culture as I have known it in every job I have ever worked. I thank the everything that I survived—that I escaped—with some tattered shred of my humanity intact. I thank the everything that I can say something almost no one I have ever worked with can say, which is that—while I may have bartered some of it along the way—the majority of my soul is still in my own possession. I say thanks for that right now.